Is Engagement Hardwired into Your Organization’s DNA?
Why It’s a Core Competency in the 21st Century
by Craig Deao, MHA, senior leader and national speaker, Studer Group
Did you know that 40 percent of patient deaths today are caused by modifiable behavioral issues? Or that chronic diseases make up 75 percent of the nation’s medical costs?
The problem is that it takes time, money, and commitment by patients to change the habits that improve these stats. That’s why we can’t afford to miss when it comes to patient engagement. It’s the only way to keep our promise to deliver higher quality at a lower cost…especially as population health reshapes the industry landscape. Is engagement hardwired into the very DNA of your organization?
The Engagement Crisis
Industry dynamics and market forces are combining to create an unprecedented level of change, and they each signal new urgency for a culture of high engagement. Many new governmental strategies and payment models, including the Affordable Care Act, prioritize engagement. Clinical quality depends on it.
Plus, rapid advances in biomedical research and precision medicine are combining with technology for a new era of targeted, predictive, and personalized medicine that allows patients to monitor health metrics in real-time and share them with remote providers…something particularly embraced by tomorrow’s healthcare consumers (i.e., millennials).
And, when you add the fact that 50 percent of physicians are burned out in the midst of an industry-wide physician shortage, just as consumers are insisting on better value for their healthcare dollar, you’ve got a recipe for an engagement crisis.
Uber Will See You Now
One of the biggest trends creating urgency for engagement is new market competition by the likes of CVS’s minute clinic and Uber. They specialize in engagement and understand–much better than traditional healthcare organizations do–that convenience and access are king when it comes to consumer preferences. They know that their customers want them to be open when they need them and located close by.
Why should a patient endure a four hour wait and an expensive deductible at the ER to have his strep throat checked out on a Saturday, when he can click ‘hold my place in line’ and head to the local CVS Minute Clinic with no appointment for a $60 fee?
Meanwhile, Uber excels at matching unmet demand and supply in all kinds of ways and is even dabbling in healthcare. In fact, every winter in dozens of cities nationwide, Uber ferries nurses who give flu vaccines directly to anyone who requests them for $10 (which includes up to 10 people at a location). Are you starting to see the problem here?
Satisfaction Is Necessary but Insufficient
In healthcare, we’ve measured satisfaction for a long time—employee satisfaction, physician satisfaction, and patient satisfaction. It’s important, but it’s also not enough. While satisfaction is a one-way street, engagement is a two-way street. I can be satisfied as a patient with my doctor visit, but not committed to following her recommendations.
While patient experience adds more dimensions, and allows us to measure patients’ perceptions about specific aspects of quality, it’s still not enough. Engagement, by contrast, tells us whether a person will choose to use his discretionary effort to do something or not. And that’s what we need, because an engaged patient strives to be informed about his health, is involved in healthcare decisions, and actively participates in self-care.
"Engagement, by contrast, tells us whether a person will choose to use his discretionary effort to do something or not."
Engagement Starts with Leaders
Here’s the thing. We can only empower patients to be proactive about their health between doctor visits if we first succeed at engaging our employees and caregivers. Engagement is a cascade that looks like this:
It begins with leaders who create a work environment that encourages physicians and employees to engage. We can’t force engagement, but we can create the right conditions for it by setting, leading, and coaching the organization’s mission, vision, and values and by designing appropriate compensation and benefits.
Direct supervisors have a huge impact, particularly by setting clear expectations and providing consistent feedback to achieve goals. (Use objective leader evaluations and the monthly meeting model found at studergroup.com.) Leaders’ jobs are to bring out the best in us.
It Flows to Physicians and Employees
For employees to be engaged, they need to feel a sense of purpose, worthwhile work, and making a difference. It’s what drives each of us in healthcare. Gallup also says that employees are more likely to engage when they have the materials and equipment to do their jobs. That’s where Rounding for Outcomes can help.
And when it comes to physicians, they want quality, efficiency, input on decisions that affect them, appreciation, and communication. That’s what drives their engagement. You can engage physicians effectively through better goal alignment and feedback, stoplight reports to communicate progress on identified issues, and rounding consistently on physicians.
Patients Are Activated
Engaged patients are “activated” patients. They trust their caregivers because they feel respected, understood, and cared about. They take ownership for their health. The good news is that if you’re using Studer Group’s Evidence-Based LeadershipSM tools and tactics, you’re already headed in the right direction. Rounding for Outcomes, AIDET®, Hourly Rounding®, bedside shift report, and post-visit phone calls are just a few tools that consistently deliver gains in patient engagement.
When it comes to engagement, what matters most is human-to-human connection. And guess what? Engagement not only cascades down, but it also flows back up. Engaged patients re-inspire caregivers and employees by confirming they’re making a difference in the lives of those they serve. And that responsiveness re-ignites the flame, or sense of purpose, of leaders in a virtuous cycle of improvement. If engagement isn’t yet a core competency across your organization, make it a priority today.
Sources: Employee engagement ratings are based on 37,260 leader responses in 577 hospitals who have taken Studer Group’s Straight A Leadership assessment since 2012. HCAHPS rankings are based on CMS-reported performance for October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015.